Cotton Ceiling Experiences

For those who do not know, the Cotton Ceiling is a term developed by Drew DeVeaux to talk about the experience trans* women encounter in various queer and sexual liberation communities – while our participation in progressive communities as social and activist members is accepted (sometimes tentatively so), trans* women participation as romantic and sexual members of the community is often fraught with systematic, individual, and cultural challenges and oppressions.  As an effort to start a dialog about our experiences, Morgan M Page is hosting a conversation at an upcoming Planned Parenthood Confrence in Toronto about the Cotton Ceiling and how trans women can overcome some of the challenges facing our sexual empowerment and sexual liberation.  Of course, this desire by trans* women to engage in dialog about the cultural influences which impact our sexual agency has been taken by the anti-trans radfems to mean trans women are wanting to engage in non-consensual sex acts with their dear, precious, vulnerable cis lesbians.  But then, radfems try to equate anything trans women do to rape.

Personally, I am tired about arguing about my right to talk about certain my experiences. I am tired about arguing about my right to engage in discourse about a cultural phenomenon impacts me and my life. And I tired about trying to get a small, vocal segment of the internet community to respect the language I use for myself.

I want to actually talk about the Cotton Ceiling.  And since there is no way I can make it out to Toronto to participate in the conversation Morgan Page is planning on hosting there – being a poor, middle-aged, unknown trans woman in Denver means I never get to out to where the cool kids are doing their things – I figure I can start a conversation here.

And the only way I know how to start one is to talk about my experiences with the Cotton Ceiling, and where it has impacted my life.  So because of the Cotton Ceiling:

  • I resisted accepting a trans identity for myself for years because I knew of no examples of trans women involved with other women.
  • I have avoided participating in women’s events because I did not want to “invade.”  I have avoided them even when directly invited.  When I did participate at an event I was invited, my participation created a community wide upset and conversation about trans women’s inclusion, and what sort of trans women should be allowed.
  • I do not go to women’s bars because I assume I am not wanted there.
  • When I do go to women’s spaces or events, I make sure to only flirt ot interact with other trans women or women who came with me to the event.
  • At a recent national level conference which included a sexual liberation track, there were no trans women who were part of the presentation lineup.
  • Because of my lack of participation in women’s spaces, I do not have a very strong network with other queer activists in my communities.  I know my stuff.  I am really good at analysis and seeing the larger picture.  I am an amazing presenter and public speaker.  I know how to facilitate conversation.  And I am amazing when it comes to promoting awareness and point out issues in supportive, non-confrontational ways.  Very few people outside those I have worked, lived and been friends with know this about me.
  • I feel guilty about not finding the bodies of some trans women attractive.  I do not feel a similar guilt about not finding the bodies of some cis men, trans men, or cis women attractive.
  • I do not believe I am attractive.  I do not believe my body is desirable.  If someone finds me attractive, I have to repeatedly make sure they know I am a trans woman.  If a straight man or lesbian woman does do, I make sure they are “okay” with trans women multiple times.
  • I have allowed myself to be pressured into relationships and pressured into sexual acts because I felt at least I was desired.
  • I do not even know when someone is flirting with me anymore or simply being nice.  Because I assume I am undesirable, untouchable, and no one would care to have sex with me, I assume that no one would flirt with me.
  • I rarely approach potential sex or play partners.  When I do, I only approach people who in some way identify themselves as bisexual, pansexual or in some way not interested in exclusively one gender or “sex.”  If I do not know a person’s orientation, I will not at all.
  • If I do plan on seeing out possible long term or casual partners, I know I will have to fetishize myself and “market” myself as something exotic.
  • Because I do not want to be seen as “another one of those trans women” to people in my potential dating pool, I do my best to appear I have everything calm, collected, my life in order, and that I am without need.  I have begun to suspect this contributes to me appearing aloof and unapproachable.
  • Because of some of my experiences, I tend to be exceeding cautious when it to dealing with men expressing their attraction to me.  In the back of my mind there is the thought that they are expecting sex from me.  And some of the sex they desire and expect is not the sort of sex I want to provide.  In my mind, they always seem to come on too strong, too creepy, not strong enough, or some combination.
  • I do not see mainstream porn which features people such as myself related to topics I find most appealing.  Trans women really seem to have only two roles in porn – being anally or orally penetrated by men, or anally or orally penetrating men.
  • I do not see inclusive, queer porn which includes people I feel I can relate in terms of my body identity, at least not without expending a great deal of effort searching for it.  Even then, with the exception of two titles, I cannot simply purchase a DVD of queer porn which includes trans women.  I must sign up for a membership and download the content.  Even then, I doubt I will find kinky, BDSM, sex positive, trans porn.
  • If I question the naming choice of a certain queer porn production company or talk about its effect on trans women, I get magical intent thrown at me.
  • I do not feel like I can participate in the sex industry – films, modeling, pro domming, tantric energy work – because I feel I am too overweight and too old to be considered desirable or marketable as a trans women.  In fact, I have been told I am too fat to be marketable.
  • If I were to do porn, it would likely have to be mainstream porn, as queer, sex positive porn is only done in a few, select places, and there is little to no attempt to reach out or engage trans women talent.
  • If I decide to become a pro in any manner – pro domme, tantrika, etc. – I will likely have to accept that I will be expected to have sex with clients, even if cis women in these fields do not.  I will never be able to find a mentor because of this expectation.  And I have been told no one would hire a trans woman pro domme they could not have sex with.
  • I do not feel I have a right to my own sexual agency or own sexual liberation.
  • I did not have near this many sexual challenges or hang-ups before transition.  I was a pretty boy.  I was desired.  If it were really about access to women’s bodies, I would have never transitioned.
  • I feel my feelings are silly, overblown, unfounded, and I am being selfish and oversensitive.  I feel as though expressing them will open me up to harassment, derision and ridicule.  Or they will be used as excuses as to why trans women should be dehumanized and excluded from certain spaces.  There is part of me which feels I should keep silent least my words be used as a weapon against other trans women.
  • I feel isolated and on my own when it comes to my sexual liberation.
  • And I do not see any of this changing.

For those looking for additional dialog on the Cotton Ceiling:

Additional Reading:

x-posted to:


  • 3/27/12 – added links to the Dating from the Margins series
  • 3/28/12 – added link to Queer Feminism article on the Cotton Ceiling.
  • 4/1/12 – Added link to Thoughts on “The Cotton Ceiling”
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36 Responses to Cotton Ceiling Experiences

  1. gudbuytjane says:

    Sable, thank you for this, it is one of the bravest pieces of writing about the real impact of systemic exclusion I’ve seen. My heart sank more than a few times from the honesty of sentiment, and the fact I could have written many of those things myself. You’re definitely not alone in these feelings.

    Much love.

    • sable says:

      Thank you as well. I normally do not feel “safe” talking about some of these topics publically. It is very much like you wrote in your Dating from the Margins series, where there is that concern about being labeled as sour grapes.

      It has been very interesting seeing the developing discussion on Fet. It seems like the people involved in the discussion are honestly interested understand and talking about the topic. I did not link the x-post here, because, well, Fet. But if you are on and want to check it out, I pretty much use the name nick there as well.

      Reviewing you DftM series, I feel it dovetails nicely into the CC discussion. And when I get home, on a computer where I can do editing, I will add them to the suggested reading. I think it would be neat to develop a dialog across the communities on these topics. And I hope you will continue to write more on your series as time, resources, energy and spoons allow.

      Thank you *hugs*

  2. Reneta Scian says:

    I agree that systemic exclusion of transwomen from any sort of debate about society or sexuality is problematic. I, however, will disagree with you on this issue. This isn’t a lesbian/queer issue, it’s a cultural one, and is not limited to the shaming of transwomen, but also to many other body types. It boils down to the sexualization of our culture, predominately women, and to genital centric attitude contained with it. I feel the conference misses the point, and is ultimately part of the problem rather than part of the solution. It’s not on the shoulders of lesbians to adjust their sexuality to include transwomen, and that is what tone makes the concept of the conference somewhat offensive, even to me a transwoman.

    I don’t like how my body is perceived, and I too would like to be found desirable by someone of the genders and sexes I am attracted to. Other than the level of completion of my transition I love my body as is, though no doubt I suffer many of the same inadequacies other women do. Beyond the shadow of doubt the issue of bodily shaming, mischaracterization, and others should be named, addressed and faced. However, this conference walks a very fine line between being simply shortsighted or completely vulgar in the eyes of others, trans and cis alike. And it may be true that many lesbians still find the penis to be unacceptable in a partner, but it’s on us to work to improve the imagine of transwomen in the eyes of the public not scoff at lesbians for only loving people with specific anatomy.

    However, I would still urge all lesbians to think about their perceptions of transwomen who have vaginas, who completed their transition with surgery and re-evaluate their positions, and misconceptions. I also urge all cisgender lesbians to open their eyes to the realities of transwoman, to realize it isn’t a myth, or a strategy to attack them, and stop being dismissive on the basis of ones anatomy alone. But that is all I have to say about that. I learn as I go, and I think much of the things I post speak to that. All that in mind I can relate to the things you say in your blog, though I disagree with the premise and language of the conference. Social acceptance is a long way off, but by putting our voices out there we move ever closer to that goal.

    • sable says:

      Since the conference has not yet occurred, and I have not had an opportunity to speak with Page about what is planned for the discussion, until I see either some sort of transcript or other feedback on what was brought up, I am holding off judgment about the direction of the discussion.

      I am not sure where people are getting this idea that the discussion if going to be about trying to change the desire and attractions models for *some* (an unknown quantity greater than zero but less than one hundred percent) lesbian women. I do not think I have seen any call for any people to alter their sexualities, at least not from the transfeminist side of the discussion. The only people I see suggesting that is what the discussion is going to be about are the anti-trans radfems who want to silence the conversation entirely. If there is a call for anything, there might be a call for a change of attitude in the general community so that existing lesbian women who are already attracted to trans women (regardless of operative state) are no longer being shamed, told they are less than, or not lesbian enough because of an attraction to or relationship with a trans woman.

      And I feel this is where counter arguments coming from the silencing radfems really fail and fail hard. Trans women do not need to convince or coerce cis queer, bi, and lesbians women to bed us or find us attractive – *they already do*. But there definitely needs to be safer space for these women to be able make attractions known, where they will not be harassed, where they will not be ostracized for their choices, where they do not feel alone and isolated, and where they can see that these relationships are real and do work. There are definitely issues within the queer women’s communities with the issues of acceptance when it comes to cis/trans relations.

      In addition to the above issue, I feel other topics which potentially can be covered in such a conversation are dialogs about our perceived self-worth, how tell when we are being engaged with in a flirtatious manner so we don’t seem oblivious or aloof, how to flirt back so we don’t seem creepy, and how to avoid finding ourselves in the trap of being Lesbian Sheep. None of these entail finding ways convert or disparage people.

      And yes, I agree, we need culture wide discussions on the topic of attraction and desire. However, I do not see how having a discussion related to trans women’s experiences within queer women’s space – a very specific set of circumstances, with a very specific set of intersection oppressions operating within them – somehow detracts or lessens the potential for a wider discussion. If anything, hopefully it will encourage additional communities to start having similar dialog.

      I want to thank you for replying. It is appreciated and meaningful.

      • Reneta Scian says:

        I agree with your assertions, and you are right, there needs to be a safe place within the queer conversation for the women who do love, and want to love transwoman regardless of operative status, but the same thing goes for men. Perhaps in part, my objection is to the idea that can be derived from the concept rather than the content of the conference itself. I am also against the way in which Lesbian RadFems feel it’s their obligation to throw transwomen, and transfeminists under the bus. Hatred is hatred, and I’ll tolerate it from no one, and that is an expectation I make of others as well. I have been writing about that specifically quite a bit.

        As for my thoughts personally to my voice on the matter: I am really only a child in this as much as I don’t like to admit it. I have been in the game far shorter than many, and there are still so many things I need to learn. The rantings of radical feminism when they describe transwomen as “deluded”, Male-to-Transsexual, pretend lesbians, or other assertions of biological destiny, or transsexuality as a cultural mythology I universally find those claims baseless, off-color, and prejudiced therefore ultimately wrong. Ultimately they are wrong because even their own assertions are contradictory when transmen come into the picture.

        But I equally find distaste in the connotations of that conference, not saying I know for sure if it will be a good or a bad thing. But the terminology is offensive to me, it makes me cringe. Cotton Ceiling? It just strikes a wrong cord with me, and I can somehow relate to how one could take offense to the term. However, body shaming is a big issue within our culture and it should be brought up, as well as the by proxy shame of those who love those who are shamed. I.E. Lesbians who love transwomen, Women who love disabled people, Women who love heavy women, Interracial Lesbians, et cetera. Prejudice discredits prejudice but I am able to see valid points within the discourse while ignoring each detail on it’s own merits.

        I think the conference gives the appearance of an attack, and I don’t think there is only one who thinks that. The name of the conference should reflect that the conference is a safe domain for lesbian, and other women with in queer spaces who love and engaged in sexual relationships with transwomen as well as for queer transwomen. I am sure, just from some of my own research, that there is a portion of the radical feminist movement that would see transwomen put into a registered database, or even registered as sex offenders. The very idea that being a transwoman somehow constitutes a violation that requires being branded as a “Social Hazard” or that no lesbian woman should want a trans lesbian is vile and repulsive.

        It could be seen equivalent to a violation of the agency of women who do want sexual relationships with trans lesbians. But I do thank you for your very candid blog, and for having a discussion about it. I enjoyed hearing you point of view with it as well as a perspective change on the basis of valid points, and things which I myself have evidence of. Perhaps some of my objections to the conference are more a matter of semantics, but I still feel a better conceptualization wouldn’t hurt to not give a “False Impression” that has many up in arms over it.

      • sable says:

        Personally, I do my best to avoid radfem dialog. I find the whole thing a hate filled trap in which is it easy to get sucked into and find oneself derailed from the work and discussions they are really trying to engage in. I had the unfortunate experience of encountering some of the anti-trans rhetoric early in my self-acceptance phase and that stuff stuck with me for a long time. And some of the vileness and hatred I felt targeted at people like myself still brings up issues.

        That said, I do not find fault or look down on those who do feel passion for the engagement. I understand the need for impassioned and powerful responses which slap down ignorance and hatred and which empower us and make us feel charged.

        I can understand the awkwardness of the name, and how people might find it uncomfortable. Since I am not a fan of magical intent, it is important to look at the actual effect it has on people. I cannot, honestly, use the radfems as a gauge for this however, as their desire seems to be not for a name change, but to shut down the conversation entirely. So it appears to me the radfem discomfort is not over the terminology itself, but the very idea of having a discussion. And I am not a fan of silencing.

        So I have to look at the impact on other individuals. And I have to look at the history and impact of the term. Simply being a little uncomfortable, challenging or awkward is not enough. Does the Cotton Ceiling truly evoke actual feeling of assault or attack? Is it triggery? Has the term been used in some sort of disparaging or assaultive context? Does the term truly refer to an act of violence? Do people honestly hear it and feel they will not be safe in that space? Those are the things which need to be looked at.

        Safe space does not mean free of challenging ideas or concepts. It does not mean comfortable space.

        So the question is then, does Cotton Ceiling actually inspire the same sort of feelings existing slurs or threats inspire? Or does the term just make one sort of lukewarm or awkward? Because in the case of lukewarm or awkward, that is a person’s own stuff, and we cannot filter conversations around every individuals personal stuff preferences.

        Yes, we definitely need a safe space for men who identify as straight or heterosexual and who are attracted trans women (as well as gay men attracted to trans men). I so strongly agree with you here. And we really need to start that within our own communities. I do not know how many times I have heard about trans women remark about these men being “secretly gay” or some similar junk. Doing so undermines our arguments about how we are women, and we have women’s bodies, regardless of operative status. If we want to talk about the fetishization of parts of our bodies, we can do so without alienating those men who simply accept trans women as women.

        In fact, DeVeaux has gone on the record as saying the Cotton Ceiling is not exclusively about trans women and women’s spaces. It is a wide reaching concept, and does include opportunities for both much targeted conversation and much larger dialogs.
        And being new to the discussion or path does not mean your opinions are less valuable. In fact, it is important you express them and continue to express them, because we always need fresh input and insights. And I apologize if anything I have written came off as in any way condescending or not valuing your opinion.

        Thank you again for replying. I feel this has been a good conversation and I have enjoyed it. I also enjoyed your recent writing on why there are trans women who do not pursue surgery. I have not had a chance to reply as I have been a bit swamped. Eventually I might make a post collecting dialogs about dating, relationships, and sexuality as pertains to trans women, and your post is likely one I will include. So thank you for that as well.

      • Reneta Scian says:

        Oh no, your opinion certainly didn’t come off that way. So no worries there. As much as I attempt to further the trans outlook and rights we need, I also think about being a voice of caution with using or expressing ideas that could be counterproductive. As a result I have denounced lines of reasoning for creating awareness, like the metaphor “Woman trapped in a man’s body”, and many others. It is a goal of mine in my writing to use a logical discourse to whittle away at where people fail to understand. However, I am only one perspective, so I am happy that there are others, like yourself doing that as well.

        One thing my old line of work taught me was that the more lines and trajectories you can convolve creates a more clear, precise, accurate, and supported conclusion to the topic. On our own, your thoughts and ideas are limited, as a group they are greater. My ideas partially so are all based on the voices and knowledge of those who came before me. In that sense I want to return the favor by passing that on. “Don’t return kindness, pass it on” – Unknown.

        As for the namesake of the conference, I can see your perspective a little better, and can understand the meaning. However, the message seems problematic, and seems to not represent what the conference is about. Cotton Ceiling should be a broader term if it’s going to be used at all, to talk about how transwomen/men (more so the prior, less than the later) as potential sexual partners are devalued, dehumanized, fetishized, whose bodies are portrayed as undesirable.

        I have a tendency to look at the broader aspects and in that lies the root of my opinions, and to a degree part of my objection. However, peeling way that pretentious label, I can see the conference for what it is and the need for spaces with in the queer community for the discourse. That is where my opinion and those of feminists, especially radical feminists depart. It oft puts me at odds in a debate, because I find itemized objections to both sides arguments. Your insight has been enlightening.

        I agree with you points, and that we shouldn’t let pettiness obfuscate change. However, Caveat Emptor: We should always be both as diligent and resolute as we are sensitive and cautious. Perhaps it’s my inner negotiator coming out. I always want people to get along, but it isn’t always possible when one party or the other has an unreasonable expectation. But I always keep my eyes to the horizon as you don’t always have to find truth, sometimes false as the answer is just as telling.

      • sable says:

        I agree with being uncomfortable with “Woman trapped in a man’s body.” And I have known a lot of trans people who find it sort of icky.

        I will say, after some dialog on Tumblr today, I am thinking we could do with better term as well. I know, after all that this morning. But the one we have is the one to work with for the time being. Does not mean I would will stop looking.

        Thank you. In a lot of ways, my conversation with you inspired a greater conversation which reached out to a wider community. I would not have considered the points I wrote, and I would not have posted them. And I would not have gotten a lot of really valid counterpoints back. So again, thank you.

      • valeriekeefe says:

        I’m going to note that you wrote heavy women as two words and trans women as one and leave it at that, Reneta.

        I think we as trans women do too much to degender ourselves in seeking accommodation from cis women sometimes.

      • Reneta Scian says:

        Hmm. I had heard that both ways, but I’ll try to take it under advisement. I certainly don’t do it to accommodate, rather out of habit. I think I have heard that debate go both ways.

      • sable says:

        Putting the space in between trans and women basically makes it clear a person is a woman who just happens to be trans. While writing transwoman implies the person is a separate creature from being a woman. It also emphasizes trans is a descriptor, an adjective, such as “heavy” or “middle-aged” or “white”.

      • Reneta Scian says:

        I see your point. I always write trans people, but transwoman. I’ll certain work to break that habit. And I had no idea about the dialog outside of this blog, and think it’s awesome, but I think we do already have a better explaination.

        I look at myself as a woman with a medical condition that requires intervention to correct. My body is mine, and it is the “correct” body for me, and any assertion otherwise would be rather “magical” and moot. Before I transitioned, I was trapped within the symptoms of a condition (not within the wrong body) that required said medical intervention. I knew I was a woman, that my body was male, and I had accepted that because I was unknowing. It was a reality that made death feel preferable, and made life feel hopeless. But then, the answer came like the harking of angels… (Well, more like the carefully spoken words of an educated therapist). There was a way out and treatment, and at that moment my eyes were opened. So, I worked through my feelings and resentment of the choices laid before me… and something miraculous happened (not really, more like critical analysis and self honesty).

        … and I got better. I found joy and happiness again, and I was unbound from the chains that bind. While I am versed at shaking the shackles of society’s SNAFU, FUBAR, and fucktacular failure of both concept and evidence (AKA Gender Binary), I am too am affected. I befuddle their (binaryist) sexual orientations by breaking with the tradition which is their foundation. Really, it’s their loss. If I was an awesome lover, confidant and friend before I’d surely still be. Being true to myself has given me back what culture robbed me of and that is my self worth, and a true sense of ownership of my person-hood. My body isn’t public domain. People who often think “Too each their own” display the reasoning which is dismissive of the uniquely diverse aspects of human nature.

        It’s probably from those lackadaisical stances of understanding that the “Lifestyle choices” diatribes derive. It drips with integral laziness and intellectual dishonesty. The biggest threat to equality is not the “opponents of trans acceptance”, but the intellectual servitude and apathy of the masses. It’s why this dialog is important, even to a degree, the term “Cotton Ceiling” as provocative may serve as a “Wake up call”. Trans women are targets, and erasure and discrimination are our foe. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke). It’s thus why ignorance/erasure are so dangerous. This discourse is can, should, and is going on beyond just trans people. Ironical, when radical lesbian feminism stands up for their “Cause” (when it comes to transwomen) it is their own brand of “Lesbian” and “Woman” (a concept departed from reality), not the betterment of women they are fighting for (ultimately self-defeating). Something of an epiphany I had just now.

        As a person I strive to know, and do better and why I am always learning both from good ideas and bad ones. I don’t defend concepts (as they are ultimately indefensible), I defend reality against it’s assault by those without the logical dignity to respect others, provide evidence for their claims, or honor the truth the evidence we do have provides. The records speak for themselves, transsexuality isn’t a mental illness, and gender identity isn’t a ailment to be “Cure” but a natural course of human development. Eventual those who exist devoid of that knowledge will have no choice by to see the “writing on the wall”, and it is our thoughts that will light the path.

  3. That was a very intimate and honest essay.


  4. Thank-you says:

    Thank-you so much for this eloquently written, vulnerable piece. We need to hear more voices speaking publicly about the exclusion of trans women in queer womens’ (and all) spaces of desire. Anyone who tries to use “rape” as analogy to these discussions is a) disturbed, and b) misogynist, and c) anti-feminist. There is no such thing as a “radfem” however there are conservative, fundamentalist individuals who clearly feel so disempowered in their own lives that they use shameful abusive tactics to try to control the sexual liberation of others. But these folks are relics and should not derail the necessity of these discussions, nor even be engaged with. Feminism is not feminism unless it centralizes trans people – women especially – as partners in taking down the gender establishment. Furthermore, these conversations have been happening for decades and I am excited that they are happening in ever more public spheres. Thank-you. Sharing your piece.

    • sable says:

      Thank you as well. Knowing that it connects with people and helps make visible the feelings so many of us have makes the writing worth while.

  5. Avory says:

    Thank you for writing this, sable. As someone who does have sex with/play with/enjoy being part of a sexual community that includes trans women, it’s helpful for me to know some of the specific things that you face as a trans woman in sexual context. It would be none of my business to directly ask about some of these things in most contexts, but it means something that you were able to share and put this out there. I think especially because it is so hypocritical that trans women would be excluded from the queer community, I sometimes forget some of these things–for example, if I’m in a sexual space and I’m seeing a trans domme to whom I’m attracted and I’d like to play, it wouldn’t necessarily occur that she might assume I’m either not interested or fetishizing.

    (The fetish thing has occurred, in some contexts, and I’m not exactly sure how to address it–I’m principally attracted to people on the trans spectrum in part from a selfish POV, wanting partners to respect my own body & gender, but I do also find a lot of trans women very physically attractive. I tend to look at it the way one fat activist I respect put it–some things, such as liking fat women, are considered a fetish because the opposite is normalized. You’re not considered a fetishist if you like skinny or cis women, but fat or trans women are considered a “special preference” because of the fucked up structure around fat and trans sexuality. I don’t really have a preference for any particular type of body, but I do find certain trans women, trans men, genderqueer people, intersex people, etc. attractive and appreciate their bodies in a sexual way. If there’s a way I can express that and be more respectful, I definitely want to work on it.)

    Also as a “conference person” and someone who speaks a lot on sex and gender and occasionally is involved in organizing events, I appreciate the feedback on that side of things. I didn’t notice the genderqueer/FTM centric nature of the sex-positive queer community for a while, I think because as a genderqueer person a little older than average I was so used to feeling like a unicorn of some sort (and because most of the trans people I knew when I started out in this community were women), but the longer I’ve been around the more I’m starting to see how strong that slant is. I also realize that as a white, young, genderqueer blogger, I have a lot of support from the blogosphere and the Twitterverse that comes from my background and my history of presenting that others don’t have. I don’t know what part of the country you’re in, but if you’re ever looking to get together with someone on a sexuality workshop, I would love to collaborate. I definitely will be paying a lot more attention, particularly in queer sexuality sessions, to whether trans women are included, and encouraging organizers to think critically on that point. I would love it if we could get some more social events going, too, though as a non-binary identified person I wouldn’t be the one to do a queer women’s event.

    • Reneta Scian says:

      Avory, I’d like to check out your blog, but all it’s showing is your Gravatar. What is your site name? Thank you for the information in advance. I ask because I like your perspective on it, and it’s a side of things that I have had little exposure to. As for my position on the conference, I’d have to admit most of my initial feelings about it were more reactionary thus why I felt Sable’s explaination was especially helpful. But I have seen more gatherings popping up that discuss that, Julia Serrano for one has been doing events in that mindset. I am for such discussion excluding my initial knee jerk reaction. I am open to learning more.

    • sable says:

      Welcome and thank you as well for your reply. I am glad what I wrote has provides some insight and perspective in to the experiences many trans women go through (even though i cannot speak for every trans woman’s experiences).

      I do agree, there is a delicate balance between attraction and fetishization. For myself, the key seems to be if I feel I am being engaged into the conversation as a human being. I also think finding traits to compliment in a flirty manner that are not necessarily gender specific – eyes, hair, visible tattoos, etc. – helps reduce that fetishizing perspective. And personally, I do think it is okay to see trans* and intersexed bodies sexy. I sometimes think members of the queer communities need to say those things.

      I know one reason, as a trans woman, why I find the idea of being considered attractive surprising is because so often in the queer communities we hear “I only date trans guys.” (and there is also a certain level of anti-femme bias, which coupled with the general lack of stated trans woman desire, end up leaving some in the queer community wondering where all the trans women are… if they even notice).

      Oh, I very much feel like a unicorn. Though not as active as I would like. But I came into the deeper stuffs when I was in my mid-thirties, so…

      I am in Denver, CO. Sadly, I cannot afford to travel very much, so I cannot get out to all the cool conferences and talks. My work affords me the time to potentially travel, just not the funds. What part of the country are you in? I would be very much interested in collaborating to help put on a workshop or conference.

  6. Suzan says:

    Sable I would love to have permission to cross post this at
    With link back to the original and author attribution of course.
    I’ve held off a few days to collect my own thoughts on this matter. I’m forty years post-op and have wound up not associating with the lesbian community because of all the bullshit. The pseudo acceptance, the being included when it comes to doing the work but the not being included in the social.
    I’m bisexual and have a female life partner, also a sister. Honestly the left hippie world feels safer than the LGBT world.
    Suzan Cooke

    • sable says:

      Hello Suzan

      Thank you and you are more than welcome to link over to this. I put this public, because I realized many of my experiences are similar to those shared by other trans women, many of whom might not feel comfortable or safe speaking publically.

      Thank you so much for checking and being willing to up the signal.

      I understand what you mean about other subcultures feeling safer. For me, I find the Goth, vampire, energy work/occult, and BDSM communities often feel safer to me than some of the Gay and Lesbian communities at times.


      • valeriekeefe says:

        You should know that one of Suzan’s thesises is that non-operative trans women are, well, not women.

        It’s up to you, but choose your allies. I don’t think letting a doctor demarcate someone’s gender is any better by scalpel than by CASAB.

      • valeriekeefe says:

        I hate when I make a spelling error.

  7. Suzan says:

    Actually Valerie that isn’t correct. the more correct stating would be female. That said I have had several lovers who were transgender and were women but not female. As someone who is bisexual I’ve never been all that hung up about the genitals of my partners.
    I am in a monogamous relationship now.
    OTOH I have also spoken out regarding other lesbian post-transsexual women who have stated they would never consider a relationship with another TS/TG sister no matter what her genital sex is.

    • valeriekeefe says:

      Ugh… once again someone ignoring the midbrain and instead caring about how the legos were put together.

      And anyone using medical technology to alter the way their body is gendered at variance with their CASAB is transsexual, not just the cisassimilationist set.

  8. Pingback: My second foray into Swinger Land | Sable's Blog

  9. Pingback: Cotton Ceiling Experiences « Women Born Transsexual

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  11. Are therapists not warning trans people of the reality they are going to face sexually? Aside from pansexual or bisexual people non-trans people may accept a trans-person socially as their presented gender but that stops at the bedroom door almost universally.

    “100% of sexual partners of female-to-male transsexuals are female. 60% of sexual partners of male-to-female transsexuals are male. ”

    **** This means gay trans men don’t get to have sex with gay men. They probably don’t get to have sex with non-trans women either.

    Lesbians accept trans men because they still have female plumbing. Using male pronouns is no big deal and neither is a flat chest. Lesbians are accepting trans men as female sex partners while accepting them as men socially.

    The equivalent would be gay men accepting trans women as male sex partners while treating them as women socially.

    “100% of female-to-male transsexuals and 60% of male-to-female transsexuals inform their partners about their transsexualism.”

    40% is a huge honesty gap. Are trans women not being told by therapists that non-trans people have a right to know before sexual contact with them?

    Why is this cotton ceiling thing being aimed at lesbians and not at straight men? Given that the purpose seemed to be exploring/breaking down the sexual barriers between trans and non-trans lesbians, why weren’t non-trans lesbians welcome? The only people who could attend were CAMAB.

    So, it was a group of assigned male at birth people discussing how to educate lesbians on their transphobia so that more lesbians become sexually available to CAMAB people, even if they still have penises.

    Non-trans lesbians aren’t transphobic. They do have sex with trans people. It’s just not the trans people you want them to have sex with.

    • valeriekeefe says:

      First of all, you wrote non-trans where you meant to write cis. It’s okay. Mitt Romney refers to himself as non-gay all the time.

      Second, that’s a study from 1988, when the estimated transition prevalence was one-to-two-orders of magnitude lower than it is today, when the second-wave still held sway over the cis lesbian community, when doctors would police access to transition medicine based on sexual orientation and operativity, and when the more progressive medical hypothesises was that we womyn were a bunch of super-fags and sad straight bois who fell in love with the idea of ourselves seeing a girl in the mirror because we couldn’t find anyone else.

      I have yet to be in a relationship with a cis woman, and at this point, given the amount of toxicity floating around, including in comments like this, I’m rather glad I haven’t been. I like women. I like women who aren’t cissexist. I like women who know how to fight for what they need and believe in… fortunately, there are plenty of women like that. Most of them trans.

      • Reneta Scian says:

        Couldn’t click reply to the lower comment. The other thing that the above comment misses is the fact that trans men can and in fact to date trans women. However, I’d imagine it’s still difficult as trans men are a bit more invisible on a day to day, and their surgical options are far more tenuous. Hopefully one day these matters would be sufficiently resolved, where doctors could produce more accurate results from sexual reassignment surgery. That being said, the past 30 years has seen leaps and bounds in improvement in those regards, and given how medicine is growing it’s my hopes that one day SRS will have results indiscernible from the natal counterparts. It won’t likely be within my reproductive lifetime but it is hopeful.

        Initially when I stumbled into the debates about the “Cotton Ceiling” I was a little naive, to say the least. But since then, I have come to understand quite a few things. One of those being the ways in which culture affects our sexuality, our sexual behaviors, and our gendered behaviors. The more science delves into these things the more it realizes that the “traditional” notions of gender, roles, and sexuality are false, and constructed. That being said, neither nature nor nurture trumps. The relevance to this is that there is “second-wave minded” individuals out there contriving, collaborating, and working to prove one or another conclusion with no loyalty to what the data actually says, or to reality. Intelligent people who let their bigotries be the guides of their inquiry, rather than a desire to learn and discover.

        And regardless of what these cissexist lesbians think, I can’t make my body conform to their expectations just so that I may be accepted as viable in their eyes, however, their attitudes on the matter certainly can have their trajectories altered. I have had cissexist private messages before telling me that they expected me to “look as manly as possible” for their sake as cis lesbians in order to “see me as an ally”. So long as I presented the risk that a “womyn” would “mistakenly fall in love with me” I would be seen as “faux”, and a threat. Or at least that was the context of the message. That, to me at least, says a lot about the attitude of some of these people. What’s interesting is that it sounds a lot like “trans panic” excuses of cis men. Few cissexists are so honest about it, maybe because the cognitive dissonance of that would be enough to have a change of heart for some. Who knows.

    • Reneta Scian says:

      This statement reflects a profound failure to understand the way in which culture affects our sexuality. If porn can transform the way an entire culture of men experience sexuality, then it can likewise do the same to cis lesbians. Furthermore, your refusal to use cis (in place of “non-trans”) reflects bias on your part. Cis lesbians aren’t inherently finding trans men over trans women attractive, culture is most certainly fueling that. Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists are a perfect example of that genital centric narrative. Secondly, you talk about trans people “needing to know the reality” before they transition in a way that presupposes choice. I know I didn’t transition out of choice, there was none.

      Oh, unless you want to be cissexist and say that loneliness, pain, and suicidal ideation is a viable option. I didn’t “become” a trans woman. I have been a trans woman this whole time. The key you are missing is that a cis lesbian may very well find me physically attractive. And when she does, it speaks volumes about where the issue lies when she’d turn around and walk away knowing that I am trans. Is genital based sexual attraction valid for some. Certainly. Is it valid for all lesbians, as your comment insinuates. No.

      And if this really panned out as some cissexist lesbians think it does, then they’d be having sex with post-op trans women as much as cis women, but this isn’t the case. And in those outdated statistics you have on that link, trans women go stealth because the chances they’ll be murdered is 10 X more likely than that of a cis person. Your entire opinion seems to be loaded with tropes, and you really should go check yourself before you espouse your ignorance. Straight cis men who oppress women make up the same excuses for their opinion (the status quo), and that should paint a picture for you.

  12. sable says:

    By the way, I apologize for any delay in accepting comments. It seems I do not always catch them in my email. And since I do not post here often enough, I don’t always catch them.

  13. Pingback: On Political Lesbianism and the Cotton Ceiling | Second Council House of Virgo

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